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Is there a solution to women being attacked by strangers?

58 replies

Hoardasaurusterf · 11/10/2021 11:02

Just pondering as I pass the time on a long train journey! There's been a lot in the media following the horrific murders of Sarah Everard & Sabina Nessa (among others) about safety. Suggestions such as the 888 app are considered victim blaming.
So how do we tackle it? Is it possible to change these mens' behaviour? Would changing society's view of women as sex objects, lesser humans etc really stop those with the worst intentions? I'm sure higher rape conviction rates would help but I feel that would be more for date rape/known assailant situations than random attacks by strangers?
I just feel that it would be so difficult to change the behaviour of men who would go so far as to abduct a stranger off the street to rape and/or murderSadAngry. Educating such men that women deserve respect just won't cut it. So what can we do? Feeling quite despondent as mum of a teenage dd that nothing has changed since I was a teen 30 yrs ago. If anything it's gotten worseSad

OP posts:

Ghostsintheshelf · 11/10/2021 11:44

I know what you mean. I feel really pessimistic about everything at the moment. There seems to be a complete lack of desire to change things by the people who have the power to do so.
My husband and I were discussing the extreme cases and how we'd fix them - in a fantasy kind of way. He came up with chemical castration for any man with 2 or more allegations of sexual abuse against him. I thought about women legally being allowed to be armed, but of course they'd just end up having their weapons used against them.
I do wish ankle trackers could be used, so any man with a history of violence against women wears one and has certain restrictions on his movements, and if he breaks them, off to prison.


brokenbiscuitsx · 11/10/2021 11:57

Hi OP. I’m just going to speak from my experience but in my early 20s (so over a decade ago now) I was on a train and I won’t go into details but I was verbally and sexually assaulted, in a carriage that was full of people.

The two things that were against me I feel (except for the man’s entitlement and actions) was my own fear of making a scene/retaliation also the fact that no one else stepped in to help (probably for the same reasons).

Now I don’t blame myself at all. Now I did at the time. I was a product then of my upbringing and of society (I say was as I would act differently now) but I do feel that women are still told to be kind and polite and I think the “be kind” movement is very tricky as to me it is in the same vein as “kill them with kindness” This isn’t always the best option. I know now that I absolutely shouldn’t have put up with this man, laughed it off and tried not to make bring attention to myself because I was embarrassed to make a scene and politeness and compliance had been instilled into me from a young age and from society. I was on high alert and went into some sort of self preservation mode. Basically I froze.

Still in this fight/flight/freeze mode, I had the foresight to get up as if I was getting off at the next station, knowing he’d follow me. That area by the doors was full of people so I managed to hang back and as he got off I stayed on and then burst into tears at the relief as the train started moving. Just as when I was clearly being harassed and touched inappropriately on a full carriage and no one helped. No one said a word to me as I burst into tears, in fact some women actively avoided eye contact with me.

This haunted me for years, wondering why no one helped, until my workplace did ‘Active Bystander’ training and I realised the reasons why people often don’t intervene and help. There are loads of TED talks on this and other useful info on the internet and tools you can use to help others.

So back to your question, what can we do about this?

  1. Stop teaching girls to accept this sort of behaviour it needs to be called out and I feel schools should be able to offer this sort of confidence training and also parents need to install that it is not impolite or ‘making a show’ to stand up for yourself.

2. However the above can only work if the victim feels they will be backed up or supported. So schools and workplaces need to do ‘Active Bystander’ training. The training I received makes it clear that to be an active rather than passive bystander you don’t have to be confrontational. Pretending to know someone is a common way you can help as is just alerting authorities (this number didn’t exist back then but now in the train you can text the transport police on 61016). I feel like everyone should know this. I do think being educated on different ways to intervene in a situation is really important. Not everyone can physically step in but there are other ways (like above) 🙂

brokenbiscuitsx · 11/10/2021 11:58

What I forgot to add was that not intervening really emboldens these assholes and shows them they can do it again without any comeuppance.


Siameasy · 11/10/2021 14:53

I agree that “be kind” is a big problem for females but at the same time we have less physical strength so we end up being kind and not making a scene because it’s the safest option (“don’t upset him”).
What would help is if we looked out for one another and actually had a society. I feel the focus is very much on individualism-selfishness is praised. Hence few are prepared to stick their neck out for a stranger


HH76ds31 · 11/10/2021 15:05

Excellent post. I also had a similar issue on a train when I was in my 20s and NOT ONE PERSON intervened. Some men actually hid behind their newspapers.(I am that old). It was nearly as shocking as the nutter himself. I was so terrified he would follow me home. So when I got off the train and he followed me and continued to harass me I sprinted through the station until I found a guard and luckily he stepped in and confronted the guy (who was right behind me still harassing so it was obvious he was dangerous). I left and ran home as fast as my feet would carry me. I still remember the fear. And just as vividly the shock and disbelief that no other person stepped in.


Bolognesedoc · 11/10/2021 15:10

It is depressing but it's important to remember that women are not attacked at the same rate in all societies and at all times so there obviously are things that we can do to make women safer. The big issue is whether we are willing as a society to prioritise women's safety. Sad


MultiStorey · 11/10/2021 16:53

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Babdoc · 11/10/2021 18:38

I’d like to see all girls given krav maga training at primary school. With a refresher course at secondary.
That way, they can then floor and incapacitate any attacker for long enough to escape.
DD did the training as an adult. It was comprehensive- covered how to break a choke hold if grabbed from behind, how to deal with a knife wielding attacker, how to use the attacker’s greater weight and strength against him, to deck him more easily. DD now volunteers as security at feminist meetings.


TReXX · 11/10/2021 18:43

I look back at when I was sexually assaulted in school and then sexually harassed at work and wonder why I didn't report it. I've always been a feminist and was upset by the incidents.

I now realise that I had no one I felt I could report it to.

So maybe we need to strengthen the complaint system, highlight that it can be reported and to whom and then properly follow through and punish the aggressors...?


NiceGerbil · 12/10/2021 04:07

  1. Root and branch review and overhaul of criminal justice system starting with police and esp met who have loads of issues not just with women and are biggest force

2. Stop going trivial trivial trivial. Oh no. Very rare crime who could have seen this coming. Flashers escalate. Take sex offences seriously.

3. Zero tolerance for anyone with dodgy attitude. System for colleagues to report without risk to themselves

4. Priority given to sex offences by police reported. Currently essentially ignored

5. Much better vetting

6.Elsewhere. Address the disaster with sex offences through the system. Rape stats appalling historical low. Rape effectively is decriminalised (not my words but a govt report person)

7. Public campaigns like they did for drink driving. Social attitudes can be changed.

8. Proper system to link reports and therefore identity serial offenders. More than one woman = better chance of conviction.

9. Stamp out victim blaming in press.

That would be a start.

NiceGerbil · 12/10/2021 04:09


I’d like to see all girls given krav maga training at primary school. With a refresher course at secondary.
That way, they can then floor and incapacitate any attacker for long enough to escape.
DD did the training as an adult. It was comprehensive- covered how to break a choke hold if grabbed from behind, how to deal with a knife wielding attacker, how to use the attacker’s greater weight and strength against him, to deck him more easily. DD now volunteers as security at feminist meetings.

Great in theory but won't the men just learn it too?

Also great for the one who gets away. They find someone more vulnerable. End result is same.

Vulnerable - younger, drunk/ drugged, rough sleepers, disabilities etc.

I have a physical disability so not an option. What do those like me do? And all the other vulnerable women and girls?

NiceGerbil · 12/10/2021 04:10

I find it hard to imagine many primary school girls could floor a grown man, however much training they have!


CaroleFuckingBaskin · 12/10/2021 04:12

I don't think women will ever be totally safe. The world is full of depraved nutcases who will stalk and attack women.

It would be wonderful if we could be safe in the street bur realistically we have to just minimise our risks.

Yes to better vetting etc but everyone has a first offence so there's little history on that person, to get them off the street


WTF475878237NC · 12/10/2021 04:18

brokenbiscuitsx and HH76ds31
I'm sorry that happened to you and no one had the courage and insight to do anything about it. How dreadful.

I was discussing this with my husband this week and he said until violence against women becomes a problem for men, nothing will change. I thought, yes but even worse than that, violence against women needs to become a problem for powerful men in order for them to have the ability to effect change. That requires such a major shift in cultural and political attitudes.


Justilou1 · 12/10/2021 04:37

My two late-teen DDs have been talking to me and my DS lately about the increase in young girls identifying as bi at the moment. (My eldest DD is bi, so I am not weird about it, btw.) They think that while some of these girls are genuinely bisexual, a lot are also attracted to men, but (quite understandably) frightened of and repulsed by their behaviour. My eldest has said that she thinks that men are sexy, but finds their herd/pack mentality frightening. All my kids have observed that boys seem to know how how to present as “woke” but ultimately nothing much has changed, and that most straight women have deeper connections to the female friends than their husbands and partners who they seem to resent most of the time. I hope that over time relationships become more equitable.


FindingMeno · 12/10/2021 05:28

@Babdoc I completely agree with you.
Self defence means being taught to street fight and it needs practice over and over again.
I was going to say the same as you - teach it in schools so it's second nature. A lot of women think that because they've been on a self defence session or 2 they're good to go but in an actual situation where its needed, it needs to be instinctive.
Better public transport.
Surely someone could develop the technology for streetlights that are motion detectors and/ or take a picture ( like a speed camera)
Tougher sentences.
Rape alarms that connect directly to somewhere. I can't bring myself to say to the police because they're not to be trusted.
Yeah, these things cost money but there's money out - there it needs redirecting.


Graphista · 12/10/2021 06:16

The only way it will EVER really change is if men - all men - do everything they can to tackle mens appalling attitudes around women and girls and actually challenge the bottom of the "rape culture pyramid" as well as all the other horrific behaviour by predatory men

I've witnessed so so many times the worse men NOT being challenged by the supposedly "nice guys" in situations where it would have cost the "nice guys"'nothing except potentially a little embarrassment!

Our LIVES are at risk and they're worried about fucking losing face!

No! If someone like Sarah's murderer makes a rape joke or comments on a colleagues breasts or BRINGS A PROSTITUTE to work then to ACTUALLY be a "nice guy" you call them out on their shit!

You also raise your sons to be completely respectful of women, teach them about enthusiastic consent, that some girls/women in a situation they don't feel safe in won't necessarily speak up as they will freeze, to treat other pupils and students and colleagues and female friends as equals while also recognising that at least physically we are at a disadvantage

@brokenbiscuitsx I am so sorry for what you went through thank you for sharing that

We do also need to stop socialising girls and women to NOT prioritise their own safety, dignity and comfort for the sake of "being nice"

I used to live in London and frankly it gets to a point if you're on the tube especially at night or at very busy times you EXPECT To get groped! It's crazy how much it happens!

@Bolognesedoc please do say which societies it doesn't happen in? I think I can guess roughly what you are going to say and I think you'll find a lot of societies that CLAIM this doesn't happen as often to their girls and women it's actually that it's not REPORTED because women and girls are even more victim blamed in those societies than in ours.

My parents (ironic given my father abused me) taught me and my siblings self defence moves, keys between fingers, walk with awareness etc

We need to take it back to preventing attacks occurring in the first place!

The first time I was sexually assaulted was at school by another child, a boy several years above me - in primary school! Which I did report and nothing was done!

Since then I've lost count of the assaults, verbal abuse and harassment I've received in my lifetime

@NiceGerbil you and I seem to hold very similar views on this topic

I totally agree that making is socially unacceptable to display misogynistic behaviour is key!

Such campaigns can and do make a huge difference to people's behaviour - drink driving (here in Scotland the law is now basically don't drink and drive, but even before that there'd been a lot of public service campaigning making it frowned upon), smoking, seat belt wearing (there was a lot of work done prior to the laws coming in), speeding when driving (still some work to do there but it's getting there)

I find it hard to imagine many primary school girls could floor a grown man, however much training they have!

My sister was walking home from school when she was 11. Broad daylight middle of summer and she was walking with a friend. A van stopped near her and a guy tried to literally grab her off the street! Luckily in this case people DID step in and grabbed her legs and prevented him from taking her. The audacity of the guy was astonishing! Someone got the plate and police were involved - known and convicted violent sex offender! Frankly he shouldn't have BEEN on the street himself!

The whole non custodial sentence for these types is WAY out of hand.

Empty the prisons of the fraudsters and junkies and petty thieves etc and there'll be room in them for the paedos so we can lock em up and throw away the keys - hell my solution is build prisons on the MANY difficult to access islands around the Uk stick em in them!

until violence against women becomes a problem for men, nothing will change

This is exactly it!

The very LEAST the criminal justice system can do is HUGE fines for "lower level" offences, put them all on the sex offenders registry for life so that impacts what job they can get, take their passports off them, make them do really grotty community service work not for a few months but for years! Make it bloody inconvenient to them!

But of course for the more serious offences we HAVE to improve the conviction rates - we need to dispel the myths around vawg and we have to stop allowing defence lawyers to treat the victim like a criminal, as if they are to blame for their own assault!

Doesn't bloody happen for other crimes! Not even other assaults

"Oh you were mugged? Well served you right for looking wealthy"

I mean come on!

No amount of self defence training will overcome a persons natural and instinctual response to danger

If your natural response is freeze you don't fight back

Mine is to fight - not always good it's got me in some sticky situations actually -

But it's known and well studied that it's almost impossible to change what your response is.

Also like nicegerbil I am disabled I couldn't use martial arts or whatever! I'm also short. I'm
A hefty weight at the moment which would make me difficult - but not impossible to lift. But I've had the experience of strange men in the past when I was lighter literally just lifting me and moving me out of their way in clubs etc without a by your leave! I've even had "lairy" lads passing by me and my friends walking home when I was smaller and lighter coming over and Just lifting me up "for a laugh" but it wasn't funny to me it was intimidating!

Dd is tall but very slim and light and has had similar experiences

She is 20 and just started uni, her life experiences aren't exactly the same as mine thankfully but she's definitely had her share of harassment and assault etc

She used to work in a pub, the boss and other male/older staff were very protective of her, one customer did this thing of trying to grab her and lift her over the bar! Didn't even catch her attention just grabbed her at the waist! Frightened the life out of her. She grabbed a plastic beer tray thingy and whacked him with that, at the same time as her thoroughly decent boss grabbed HIM (big guy her boss not someone you'd pick a fight with!) Boss threw him out and barred him! He always backed her and the other women staff when there was any crappy behaviour, got his pub a reputation for being a safer one for women so he got a lot of custom that way. He always made sure dd and the other women had a safe way to get home too.

One lass joined the staff and at the end of her first Friday night it transpired she was planning to walk home alone a fair distance. Boss was like no chance! He couldn't take her himself as he had something to do but he ordered and paid for a taxi for her and insisted she text him she was home ok.

But honestly the main thing he did that made that pub safer than others was not tolerating crappy treatment of his staff. Any untoward comments the speaker had to apologise immediately, anything more than that and they were out.

THAT is how truly decent men behave.

My uncles on my mother's side I've also witnessed them challenging sexist comments or behaviours and directions the commenter to apologise.

The vast majority of the time ime when that happens the commenter then becomes very sheepish and quiet! Very few challenge back.

They're ultimately bullies and bullies are at heart cowards


PattiPritell · 12/10/2021 06:33

The very LEAST the criminal justice system can do is HUGE fines for "lower level" offences, put them all on the sex offenders registry for life so that impacts what job they can get, take their passports off them, make them do really grotty community service work not for a few months but for years! Make it bloody inconvenient to them!

I can't believe everyone hasn't said prosecute the assaulters and rapists - What is it 1.4% rapes are prosecuted.
It is absolutely ridiculous and on top of that the cases are dragged out for yeeeeaaaarrrrrs.

If you accused someone of rape and you knew you would both be in court within a month - don't you think the number of rapes would fall.
Likewise assault. I don't know if the cases on the trains above had CCTV footage but they would now.

One thing we could do is pick a phrase such as (excuse the blooming obvious) leave me alone, I don't know you, go away. And this said, hopefully, in a loud voice , shout, scream could be standardised as the call of someone requiring help. Could apply to men too. And then bystanders would know they need assistance.

If it was known to be a cry for help it would be harder for bystanders to ignore.


GCAndProud · 12/10/2021 08:43

I think male violence will always happen to some extent or another. But many men have an absolutely disgusting attitude to women and I’d argue worse than it was say 20 years ago when I was a teenager. Porn, ‘empowerment’, glorifying prostitution, camera phones and TV shows like Love Island have helped ensure that. But especially porn. In my youth, rape happened but I have been shocked to hear young men actually bragging about raping someone, whereas when I was a teen, they wouldn’t have been that brazen. That must be due to the proliferation of rape porn. And don’t get me started on the number of men who think choking someone is okay during sex whereas in 2001, only a true psycho would have pulled that shit.
Basically I thank the Lord I was born during the 80s and not the 00s.


Bolognesedoc · 12/10/2021 09:55

@graphista I wasn't thinking of any society in particular but there are definitely places where it is unusual for women to be assaulted and others where it is almost inevitable. That's not to say that the misogyny doesn't show up in other ways. Some things we know lead to a reduction in vawg:

  • not allowing strip joints to open (leads to an increase in vawg in the area)
  • better street lighting
  • an efficient prosecution system when crimes occur

I would also add that imo we need:
  • education on feminism, respect for women to encourage boys not to accept sexist behaviour that can escalate
  • a ban on porn (yes, I know, never going to happen but I believe it is extremely damaging)
  • we need to believe women when they report crime and folow up on voyeurism, flashing etc instead of brushing it off
  • female-only spaces where appropriate
  • a more responsible approach to writing about vawg in the press. Too often men that kill women are described as good blokes. They're not.

Justilou1 · 12/10/2021 10:42

God, I’m so furious… tried to discuss this with DH, and he was so fucking defensive and started shouting at me with the “Not all menz” argument…
Yes, we know that bit, but ALL WIMMINZ!!! ALL FFS!!


dameofdilemma · 12/10/2021 12:19

Some good suggestions in these posts.

Additionally - the less equality of opportunity there is, the more crime there will be. So:

  • better mental health resources and support from a young age.
  • better resources and support for prevention and treatment of drug addiction.
  • more focus on the causes of crime (including poverty, abusive upbringing etc) and how children can be better protected and parents better supported.

Most men do not violently attack women they don't know. Need to look at underlying causes of 'stranger' assault to understand why it happens and how to prevent it.

And of course, much, much more support and resources to protect women from domestic violence and support them in leaving their abusers.

ChattyLion · 12/10/2021 12:25

Also cultural change, like banning violent pornography with proper criminal sanctions, could help de-normalise some disgusting male views of what women exist for.


BodyWithVagina · 12/10/2021 13:07

How many threads are there on this on the more male-oriented forums, do you think?

‘Aibu to wonder how can we stop raping and killing women?’


Graphista · 12/10/2021 14:49

@PattiPritell the problem is bystanders often DON'T intervene even when it's obvious someone is being assaulted sadly plus that still means that someone has been assaulted. We want to get to a point where assaults don't even begin or at least not as often as they currently do

@GCAndProud I agree the proliferation of violent and demeaning porn freely available to all (let's be honest supposed age restrictions simply don't work in practice) but with the internet working as it does aside going a North Korean or Chinese style control of that instead we need to guide and educate boys/young men far better in how they're raised

@Bolognesedoc if you weren't thinking of any society in particular how you could possibly posit the opinion you did?! That makes no sense. I really don't believe that the societies with the measures you describe have less vawg than others, I believe it's simply not reported/admitted to. Just as in China, North Korea and similar it wouldn't be because even with all their control they can't control this

Your measures to prevent along with those suggested by other pps I mostly agree they would help, but until and unless men actually change their own culture of entitlement and aggressiveness in life generally there won't be a significant change

@BodyWithVagina precious few I'm sure!

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